Views / Opinion

iPhone X is a status symbol not a communication tool: Menon

The iPhone X may well be a magnificent gadget. But at $1,300 and beyond, it is also a luxury item, a manifestation of our have and have-not society.

People try out the new iPhone X during a media event at Apple's new headquarters in Cupertino, California on September 12, 2017.

AFP PHOTO / Josh EdelsonJOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

People try out the new iPhone X during a media event at Apple's new headquarters in Cupertino, California on September 12, 2017.

I look forward to 2021, which is probably the year I’ll get an iPhone X.

By then, of course, Apple will be releasing the iPhone XIV, which will be announced from a special event in space where chief executive Tim Cook will gesticulate in zero gravity while waxing rhapsodically about the exciting new features.

There will be a life-sized hologram assistant that can double as your best friend, or maybe your only friend now that you spend 15 hours a day on your phone. The battery will last for six months on a single potato charge. The animal translator will allow you to chat with your cat — who knew she was contemplating ontological metaphysics during those naps? — as Netflix is beamed into your visual cortex.

“I really need that new iPhone,” you will whisper to yourself, as the haptic feedback on your Apple Watch taps your wrist to remind you it’s time to start packing rations for the two-week wait in the Pre-Advance Purchase Line.

This is the ultimate genius of Apple: it makes us want products we never knew we needed. It has become the standard bearer for lifestyle tech. But by embracing status symbol instead of essential communication tool, as it did this week by announcing the costly iPhone X, Apple also appears to be getting cocky.

And this arrogance could lead to a backlash.

Any tech purchase is a personal choice. So I am only speaking for myself. If you love Apple just the way it is, that’s great. But there are times, like during Tuesday’s iPhone X reveal, when I wish I had never exposed my family to the cult of Apple all those years ago because now we are riding shotgun into the future with the whims of questionable innovation driven by profits.

The iPhone X may well be a magnificent gadget. But at $1,300 and beyond, it is also a luxury item, a manifestation of our have and have-not society. Unlike other electronics where prices plunge over time — remember when people were dropping 20K on a flat-screen TV? — the iPhone is getting more expensive.

It is also getting more determined to re-engineer the way you live.

Even new vaunted features that sound vaguely sci-fi are, upon closer scrutiny, totally unnecessary. Take this Face ID feature that didn’t even work in this week’s onstage demo. In this age of surveillance and hacking, is turning your face into your password really such a sensible idea?

Leaving aside the ghastly possibility of a decapitation during a violent mugging — “Hey, Bub, give me your phone and your face!” — now I’ll need to be in the same room if the kids borrow my device in the evening to help with homework.

“Dad, could you look at your phone again? It’s locked. While you’re here, what are all the factors of 144? Also, I’m hungry. Bring me a snack.”

Hey, Apple, you’re supposed to be helping me do less around here!

And for a company that seems to care so much about equality, why is Apple now alienating consumers who can’t afford to keep up with a madcap cycle of annual model rollover? In the interest of egalitarianism, shouldn’t Apple at least attempt to reach loyal customers who were with the company at the start and now, say, work at a daily newspaper and can barely afford food and shelter?

The company also announced two new iPhone 8s this week, but not a 9. Suggestion: maybe the 9 can be a down-market model for people who don’t mind keeping a phone for a few years without the constant threat of obsolescence.

I took such good care of my iPod and then one day it was too old to be updated.

It literally died while it was still alive, which seems to be Apple’s business model.

So charge me 200 bucks for a reliable but boring phone and I’ll be happy to use my big toe as the password. I don’t need to visit a fancy “Town Square,” which is how Apple is rebranding its stores. No, I’d be delighted to purchase my iPhone 9 inside a company “Welfare Office” as long as I don’t need a loan.

The problem with Apple became clear this week: it is making it very hard to not upgrade, to not get trapped inside this vicious and pricey cycle of wanting something you don’t need. The danger is not in the present but in the future, when innovation does lead to a “game-changer” and the iPhone XXI comes bundled with a precog system (iPsychic) that can predict divorce, layoffs, food poisoning, spousal infidelity and even total organ failure in advance, all for $2 million.

I can’t quit you, Apple, because you already take care of my music, my photos, my videos, my email, my texts, my diversions, my access to information, my literal location on the planet and even my memories.

The least you can do is not be so greedy.

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